Interview of Angela Baxter, McKeva Kinard-Shelton, Karen O'Donald
Written By Maggie White
WOAM is a organization that strives to create a safe, secure and comfortable environment to promote a positive social change in one's life and community.
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” This question has been around for ages. But what if it was applied to our community? If someone asked for help, and no one was listening, does that person receive help? If you ask Women on a Mission, the answer is “yes” because they are always listening for the call.
It all started in 2010 when McKeva Kinard-Shelton helped a woman in need of a place to stay after escaping an abusive relationship. McKeva told me, “She came to Newberry County looking for some type of assistance or some help, and we didn’t have any place for her to go or to stay. So, what I did was I gave her some of my money for her to pay for somewhere to stay.” After helping the woman, McKeva decided she wanted to create a refuge and be a source for women and children coming from domestic violence. And thus, Women on a Mission was formed. From there, it started to grow. With the help of friends, family, and Wightman United Methodist Church, McKeva was able to start House of Sweet Transition.
Though House of Sweet Transition started as a place for those escaping domestic violence, it has now evolved to become temporary housing for all in any crisis, a place for drug rehabilitation, and a school. Pastor Karen O’Donald, the founder of Moving Forward Ministry, currently lives in the house to ensure help is always close by. She has also started a homeschooling association there to help children with learning disabilities. Karen said, “This year I will have 11 students that will be coming to school: 12 total, including a virtual student from Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. These are all children that struggle with learning disabilities. In school, they were being bullied, pushed to the side, and some were being promoted and couldn’t even write their own name.” Her students from the 2021-2022 school year came to her failing all their classes. By having an environment that is made specifically for them, the students raised their grades to A’s.
Karen also helps adults who have undiagnosed learning disabilities in school by giving them resources and creating relationships with them to show they are supported and cared about. “I am getting them to where they don’t have self-esteem issues and giving them opportunities that they didn’t know they had. And I am so thankful I can give them those opportunities.”
Working with McKeva and Karen is Angela Baxter. Angela’s focus is on New Life Change, a youth and teen leadership program. The center for this program is in downtown Prosperity, where kids and teens can come engage with each other in a positive environment. “We’re working on building communication among them. We know they’re going to fuss; we know they’re going to fight. But they are beginning to understand one another to where they can say ‘I know what’s wrong with them and why they’re acting this way’. And the kids are pretty much right because of the bond they have formed,” said Angela.
Besides communication, New Life Change teaches the group about entrepreneurship, financial planning, character building, and different forms of art. For example, McKeva’s daughter leads a dance class at the center for those who want to take dance lessons but cannot afford to. But New Life Change isn’t helping just the kids. It became clear to them that it was impacting the parents as well. Angela said, “The parents are participating, getting involved, and they love it. It has led us to get ready for a Bible study for the parents. They’re learning about themselves and becoming positive from watching their kids. So, we are not only touching the youth, but it’s also reaching the home, and that’s what we need. We need it to reach the homes because that’s where a lot of the issues start.”
For nearly 12 years, these women have devoted all they are to help our community and youth. They made the analogy that Women on a Mission is the trunk of a tree, and the newer programs are the branches. With the support of the community, they hope their tree will continue to grow.
If you would like to help, please contact Women on a Mission by mail or drop-off. For mailing, use PO Box 174 Prosperity, SC 29127. Drop-offs are acceptable at 128 Broad Street, Prosperity, SC 29127 from 3 pm to 8 pm, Monday through Friday.